Tuesday, 9 August 2016


An observation some parents make is that their child who suffers from encopresis doesn’t care about their condition, is quite happy to continue soiling himself or herself, isn’t bothered whether their underwear is clean or dirty and makes little effort to overcome their toilet problems or even be willing to talk about them.  Children or teenagers refusing to change themselves, or not asking someone to change them, after accidents or not using the toilet when they are just yards from the bathroom are additional factors which often lead parents to conclude that their child just couldn’t care less about their soiling habit.

Many parents think their children
do not care about their soiling
problems, but I suspect that this
is often not the case. (c)
I think it is likely that my own parents thought that I didn’t care about my toilet problems.  In my previous post, Staying in Messy Pants, I explained why I didn’t report my accidents and carried on sitting, walking or playing in my soiled underwear until someone smelt what I’d done.  I can also clearly remember at least one occasion when I felt the need to poo while I was right outside the bathroom, which was unoccupied, but instead of going inside and using the toilet I crouched on the landing floor and withheld my poo and then carried on playing.  Withholding had become a habit for me and proximity to the bathroom was not a consideration. 

I also rarely talked about my soiling at the time.  Regardless of whether I was clean or messy, it was a subject I really didn’t like discussing.  Partly this was embarrassment, but partly because I couldn’t offer any explanation of why I did what I did.  When I was very young I didn’t know that my dirty pants were the result of not using the toilet, and even after making the connection my juvenile brain could not explain why I continued to withhold sometimes when I was aware of the consequences of so doing.  It is only as an adult I have been able to make sense of the decisions that I took during my childhood with regards to my toileting.

When my mother checked my pants and found they were messy I would say I was sorry, but couldn’t answer questions like, ‘Why didn’t you go to the toilet?’ or ‘Why do you keep doing this?’  While I was being changed I stood in front of my mother as she cleaned me up, saying very little.  We didn’t have a shower in the house, so I had to be washed using a flannel and a sink of soapy water.  My habit of playing in dirty pants meant that I was often messier than would otherwise be the case and the clean-up tended to take quite a while, during which time I gave little response to my mother’s comments and questions about my latest accident.

But my lack of response didn’t mean that I didn’t care about my soiling problem.  By the time I was 7 I cared deeply about it, desperately wanted to stop doing it, really wanted to be like other children.  Even though I could happily carry on playing in messy pants, I hated the moment when I knew that I’d had another accident, hated the moment when that accident was discovered and hated having to be undressed and changed by my mother.  But I was unable to articulate these feelings into words that would have made any sense.

I was generally a happy child, but I desperately
wanted to stop pooing my pants.  Trying not
to think about my toilet problems too much
was a coping mechanism for me.
Generally speaking, during the years when I was soiling myself fairly frequently, I was a happy child.  I loved my infant school, could amuse myself for hours, got on well with other children, particularly girls, and these were among the happiest days of my life.  When I was clean I tried to avoid thinking about my toilet issues as much as possible, and even when I needed changing I tried to put them to the back of my mind.  This was another way for me of coping with the situation.  If I had been constantly thinking about how I still pooed myself when I was 6, 7, 8 and even older, bearing in mind that I thought at the time that I was the only school aged child in the world who did this, I think I might have become clinically depressed.  Thinking all the time that I was babyish and disgusting would have been a terrible burden for a little boy to carry and I’m glad that I didn’t do this.

So I remained happy and tried not to think about my poo problems too much.  When I put on clean pants in the morning I didn’t wonder whether I would mess them during the day, and when we went out I didn’t worry about whether I would have an accident and have to be changed in a public toilet.  As a result, while encopresis undoubtedly blighted my childhood, it did not ruin it and I have many happy memories to look back on.

It is impossible for me to know what goes on in the minds of other people, particularly other children or teenagers.  Maybe some genuinely do not care about their toilet issues, and maybe some have been soiling themselves for so long that they have lost the will to try to improve the situation, or simply do not know how to do so.  But I guess that some children who soil, while they may give the impression of not caring, actually care deeply about the situation and, like me, would desperately like to become completely clean.

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